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Meet Elena Cuellar of Elena Cuellar Photography in Downtown Chicago

Today we’d like to introduce you to Elena Cuellar.

Elena, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I’ve always been a people person and a creative since I was tiny. My Dad used to joke when I was little that “I should go into politics” because I wasn’t afraid to say hello to anyone I saw, whether at the grocery store, the mall, or a department store. My creative side kicked in when I was 5 after a visit to Sea World with my family. I don’t remember every detail from that trip but I do remember holding my Dad’s camera – it was love at first click.

When I look back, being creative has also always made me happy; whether it was playing around with my camera, acting in church plays, taking fashion, theatre arts, and photography courses in high school and so forth

So, it made sense in high school that my career would involve both business & photography, however other interests caught my attention and when it came to college I decided to pursue a career in Criminal Justice instead of applying for art school. I graduated in 2014 with a B.A. in Political Science with a focus in Criminal Justice. After working full time as a legal secretary right and part time as a second photographer, I knew that photography was my true calling; it was the puzzle piece that was missing and what made me feel alive and passionate. Thus, in 2016 I put in my two-weeks’ notice at my law firm to pursue my true passion.

It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I am so thankful to have the opportunity to do what I love through serving and loving my clients. And while photography is my passion – building lasting relationships with my clients is what makes my heart happy.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I wish! No, the reality is that being an entrepreneur is tough work. In the beginning I assumed that once I let everyone know I was a photographer, clients would come knocking on my door. It was a quick slap in the face when I realized that it doesn’t happen that way; success is slow but is definitely rewarding.

My biggest struggles when I started included finding the best light, my shooting/editing style, my brand, and remembering how to use my external flash. The black line of death is no joke when it comes to using your external flash on too high of a shutter speed. I laugh about it now, but a few years ago there were definitely some tears. Thankfully I’m a fast learner which is a blessing.

Since then, I’ve learned that growing a successful business takes passion, education, commitment, energy and late nights. I wouldn’t change it for anything. After all, per my favorite wedding photographer couple Justin & Mary Marantz say: “Slow growth equals stronger roots”. That’s the key to keep moving forward.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Elena Cuellar Photography – what should we know?
I’m a photographer that specializes in both fashion and weddings! I’m known for how comfortable I make my clients feel, whether they are a couple in love, a fashion blogger, or a model. However, I’m also know for how I capture light in my photographs. Good light is magical! No matter who I photograph I’m always on the hunt for finding the best light.

In terms of what I am most proud of – I would definitely say taking a leap of faith and quitting my full-time job as a legal secretary to pursue my true passion. It was an act of faith and I have no regrets.

Honestly, I think what sets some body apart from the next person is staying true to who you are, both personally and in business. I think what sets me apart from other creatives is that I photograph with my heart not with my eyes. My passion for photography came at such a young age and it shows during every session. I’m the photographer gets giddy with excitement over how beautiful the light is and how my clients are killing it, and I always make sure that no matter what there is always laughter and smiles regardless if it’s wedding or fashion photography.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
Credit is given where credit is due and I definitely would not be where I am at if it weren’t for my mentor, family, and friends. My mentor, Alicia, was a blessing because she took me under her wing and taught a lot of what I know now, especially in regards to wedding photography. Not only that, but she was incredibly patient and helped me improve my technique. She always encouraged me; never once doubting my abilities in creating a beautiful experience for my brides and grooms.

My family and friends are also to thank because they have been so supportive in my journey as a wedding and fashion photographer. They have been my cheerleaders, support system and even have helped me on wedding days as unpaid interns. They do it with love and it means the world to me to have them by my side.


  • Clients on average invest in $2300 for their wedding day.

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